Could you be getting in your way of producing great work? Have you started a project but never finished? Would you like to do work that matters, but don’t know where to start? The answer is Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way, a manifesto by bestselling author Steven Pressfield, that will show you that it’s not about better ideas, it’s about actually doing the work.
The following is a list of the forces arrayed against us artists and entrepreneurs:
1. Resistance (i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, timidity, ego and narcissism, self-loathing, perfectionism, etc.)
2. Rational thought.
3. Friends and family.
The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:
1. The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
2. The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
3. Any diet or health regimen.
Stephen King has confessed that he works every day. Fourth of July, his birthday, Christmas.
I love that. Particularly at this stage–what Seth Godin calls ‘thrashing’ (a very evocative term)–momentum is everything. Keep it going.
How much time can you spare each day?
For that interval, close the door and–short of a family emergency or the outbreak of World War III–don’t let ANYBODY in.
Sometimes, on Wednesday I’ll read something that I wrote on Tuesday and I’ll think, ‘This is crap. I hate it and I hate myself.’ Then I’ll re-read the identical passage on Thursday. To my astonishment, it has become brilliant overnight.
Ignore false negatives. Ignore false positives. Both are Resistance.
Act, then reflect
Now, that we’re rolling, we can start engaging the left brain as well as the right. Act, then reflect.
Here’s how I do it:
At least twice a week, I pause in the rush of work and have a meeting with myself. (If I were part of a team, I’d call a team meeting).
I ask myself, again, of the project:
What is this damn thing about?
Keep refining your understanding of the theme; keep narrowing it down.
This is the thorniest nut of any creative endeavor–and the one that evokes the fiercest Resistance.
It is pure hell to answer this question.
More books, movies, new businesses, etc. get screwed up (or rather, screw themselves up) due to failure to confront and solve this issue than for any other reason. It is make-or-break, do-or-die.
Paddy Chayefsky famously said,
‘As soon as I figure out the theme of my play, I write it down on a thin strip of paper and Scotch-tape it to the front of my typewriter. After that, nothing goes into that play that isn’t on-theme.’
Have that meeting twice a week. Pause and reflect. ‘What is this project about?’ ‘What is its theme?’ ‘Is every element serving that theme?’
Fill in the gaps
Ask yourself, ‘What’s missing?’
Then fill that gap.
Complement Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way with 10 Laws of Doing, a collection of ideas and activities that encourage you to use your life as a canvas and explore your creativity through everything you do.